Last summer, David and I were driving to Minneapolis. On the highway past Des Moines, we came upon a large semi used for carrying animals to slaughter. Conversation stopped, and I held my breath. I dread driving by those semi trucks, seeing snouts poke out from the holes, knowing what will happen next. Apprehension hit my stomach with a thud.
It’s ironic that in “hog country,” pigs are mostly hidden. They usually spend their short lives in confinement facilities. (However, soybeans are an ever-present feature. A person driving across the state passes field after field of them, but the beans are generally used for feed, not tofu and soy milk.) In 2012, Iowa farmers raised and killed 49 million hogs. To put that in perspective, there are 3 million people in the entire state. Yet, despite their numbers, pigs are largely missing from the Iowa landscape. I don’t see them in farm fields as I drive along I-80 or I-35. I only see their faces poking out from the metal holes in semi trucks…
But on this day, as David and I closed in on the truck, we both sighed. The truck was empty. No snouts or tails poking through the holes. No eyes looking back at us. But before we could speak, the relief was over. On closer look, we saw that there were in fact animals inside. They were tiny piglets, their little bodies too small to reach those higher holes.
It was in a truck like that one that a piglet named Kayla got her lucky break. She was traveling in a large semi with hundreds of other piglets, jetting across the interstate, when she escaped and fell to the road outside. A driver witnessed the event and took Kayla to the Animal Rescue League. Her injuries were slight, just some road rash. And eventually Kayla made her way to Iowa Farm Sanctuary, where she will live out the rest of her life – as an individual, not a commodity.
Iowa Farm Sanctuary: Where Compassion Lives
Jered & Shawn Camp – Co-founders of Iowa Farm Sanctuary
Iowa Farm Sanctuary provides a safe haven for farmed animals. It’s a place where humans can meet the resident pigs, calf, sheep, chickens, geese, and goats and come to know them as beings with feelings, preferences, and personalities.
On their website they acknowledge that in the face of an enormous agricultural industry, saving a few lives may not make an impact to the animal industry at large. But it makes a very real and immediate impact on the individual animals whose lives are saved and the people who come to know them.
I had a chance to visit Iowa Farm Sanctuary for their first public event, Pigs ‘N’ Pumpkins. There were barn tours, raffles, veggie burgers & chili for the humans, and a pumpkin feast for the pigs of honor. Live music was provided by Deb Tiemens. (If you listen closely, you can hear Deb singing in the background during part of the video above.)
In a state where vegan restaurants are rare and vegan mini malls require a plane ride, it was buoying to the spirit to see so many people eager to meet the animals who will live out their natural lives at the sanctuary. (The first batch of 100 tickets to the event sold out in a couple of days. Shawn & Jered added 25 more tickets, and those were gone within minutes.)
David and I took a tour of the grounds and met the animals who reside there. There was Carl, who had recently been saved from a veal auction. There was Monkey and Marley, two pigs who were going to be killed as piglets because they were runts, and it was deemed that it would be too costly to get them to “slaughter weight.” (In the confinement facility where they came from, 2000 runts are killed a week.) And we met so many other furry friends – Bennie, Hope, Otis, Matty, and of course, Kayla… (You can read about all of the residents here on their website.)
To see more from Iowa Farm Sanctuary, check out the video above that David and I shot while we were there. It includes interviews with Jered, Shawn, and social media coordinators, Ace Wilde, and Chelsea Clegg. You can learn more about the animals they’ve rescued and hear their remarkable stories.
Board members Kellie Osler, Ace Wilde & Chelsea Clegg
As we’re knee deep in the holiday season, consider making a donation to Iowa Farm Sanctuary instead of wrapping up a DVD or house slippers for your loved one. You can sponsor individual animals by the month or year. Or if you’d like to have something to wrap, they also have t-shirts for sale. (David and I just got the ones we ordered in the mail!) To set up a tour, volunteer, or learn more, visit their website or Facebook page.
A huge thank you to my husband, David Busch, for shooting and editing the video above and for taking all of the pictures in today’s post. (The picture of Kayla in the video & the clip of Carl running are from Iowa Farm Sanctuary’s website and Facebook page. Thank you to them for letting us use those!)
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